MAPS Welcome to Issue Five
Dear All, Everywhere,
It occurs to everyone, on the occasion of being lost, that a map is not actually a place, but a signifier of a place denuded of corporeal experience by a language of two-dimensional symbols. It will help you know proximity, but not actuality. And because of this, a place is so often more interesting than a piece of paper. And yet we continue to put things on paper (or screens) anyway. Why.
Perhaps maps may alleviate emotional distance. At Terminal B5 an elderly man holds a stack of laminated maps. They are all of Chicago. Mostly I cannot believe the maps being there, since up against a deadline I am attempting to make notes for this letter. I am traveling home. It is New Year’s Eve. The man shows the maps to an off-duty flight attendant. Each takes pleasure in pointing to the spot on each map where there are symbols marking the place where each lives. Watching them I clock: it as much a joy to find the symbol marking the place you live as it is to show someone else the symbol, and to see how close or far it is to another’s. It sends a thrill. I watch this happen, until it’s time to get on the plane.
This time of year we make pilgrimages, holidays. I find myself in new places, needing orientation. This year, unlike any before, I have a smartphone. It furnishes a seemingly infinite map, with a blinking blue dot that is supposed to be me. There is no terminal edge to my map -- my finger swipes with a heretofore unknown thirst, seeking -- but this does not stop me from getting lost. Inaccuracy is manifest. The blue dot is only almost where I stand. So I get lost, often. I become suspicious of devices, dots, maps.
Using a map we point; we orient our bodies. “Orient your direction using the map. The river is back here. This is east.” Looking at a map we can foretell or fake travel. Casually, maps are a virtual reality tool. Critically, maps communicate the ethics of spatiality, of having a body in space. They are two dimensional annotations, shorthand, instruction, citations, for our existence in a multidimensional world. They evoke, once we activate them, more than we can often experience on our own standing in one place. Writing is this too. Art is this too. A map is as constrained as a poem in its representation of life. And both must rely on our shared languages and comprehensions, must be inventive in order to work, to serve its utility.
Both art and maps work through the idea of proximity, from maker to consumer, from concept to language, from site to site. We organize and prioritize the important facts of being; we demonstrate orientation. The work here represents this curatorial and evaluative power; it subverts our definitions of maps, narrative, lyric, the image, of every flat gesture to a whole land. Jess Stoner seems to twist our presuppositions between her forefinger and thumb while collagist cartographers B.j. Vogt, Laura Vena and Alec Hershman take a more conspicuous posture. Katy Gunn and Shane Jones embrace the topographic, circling around every elevation of tiny yet mountainous narratives. Poems by Laura E. Davis and Jaydn DeWald both cop a form of authority in order to let in some vulnerable light, and Sara Deniz Akant introduces a voice that heaves like a bellows in a claustrophobically small space. Dawn Pendergast seemsto offer a partial exhuming of a very whole life. Work by Philip Matthews brings us now, lineated. Joseph P. Wood and Sarah Jennings take a trip together and call-and-respond their ways into art, while poems by Travis Brown seem to split themselves in two in order to examine, and then to find ways back to a whole. Joe Milazzo brings a technological flare to sweet lyricism in the form of an annotated Google Map, and David Laskowski’s and Dawn Pendergast’s work drops a curtain of exacting abstraction while Jane Wong brings us creeping and sharp poems with a fairytale heartbeat. Kevin Weidner, the issue-resident bard of maps, extols the bittersweet poignancies of hereness.
It’s an expansive issue full of beautifully resolved work, an atlas (maybe, if you will humor me, on this long night into next year) of the kind of work that can and will inspire creative rigor and flexibility in its readers. With Joe Collins, (an assistant editor and man of extreme acumen and finesse), I proudly present you this, our fifth issue, in our third year, in this bright and thick new century.
We thank you as always for reading. Welcome.
And Many Happy Returns,
Amanda Goldblatt, Ed.